As a registered dietitian, I’m often asked for strategies to get through the holidays without gaining weight. In return, I give guidelines on what to eat and ways to avoid overindulgence. This advice, when followed, can be successful. While those weight management strategies are important to know, I’m thinking about the holidays a little bit differently this year, which is putting the thought of holiday indulgence in a different light for me.
A feeling of deprivation is a common feeling for many of us when faced with the need to change our eating habits. This can be amplified during the holidays when we are bombarded with opportunities to overindulge. This is often encouraged because of fond memories such as having “Santa’s” cookies with a cup of hot cocoa or eating the dozens of cookies created during holiday baking parties. We often begin the holiday season with an authentic desire to be fit and healthy. To that end, we set rules to help guide us about what to eat. One part of the mind tells us that we should not eat those holiday goodies, while another part of our mind reacts with rebellion and a strong urge to eat as much as we want. This conflict is the basis of feeling deprived which, more times than not, leads to throwing in the towel and overindulging with much regret later. For many of us with a past history of holiday gluttony, anything less than what we are accustomed to seems to bring on those negative feelings. One of the ways to resolve this conflict this holiday season is to change how you view what should be eaten during those celebrations. Replace a rigid list of “should not’s” with a reasonable list of “can haves.” You can have one to two cookies, not six. Three bites of cheesecake, not a quarter of the cake. It may put your weight loss on hold for few days, but it will not set you back for weeks. A goal of weight maintenance for two to three weeks gives you 50 other weeks to focus on losing that unwanted weight. Another mindset that is helpful is to focus on how much you have rather than what you don’t. In these tough economic times, having ample healthy food with a small amount of indulgent treats is abundance for which to be grateful. During the holidays, doing with a little less and giving more to others may be the best panacea to counteract the feelings of deprivation. Step back for a moment, and you might see that the feelings of deprivation may not be coming from your going without a favorite food. Instead, it’s actually from the excessiveness that has become commonplace for many of us. Make this holiday season more about giving and gratitude for what we have. Currently, our local food banks have a great need with donations at the lowest point in many years due to the lingering effects of the recession. Forty-nine million Americans, children, families, and seniors are now food insecure. Yet, each one of us has the power to make a difference. For every dollar we donate, food banks can provide 10 pounds of food for someone who is hungry.
Conscious modifications of what we buy and how much we serve at holiday celebrations could allow all of us to give a little more generously, reaping the many benefits of giving. By focusing on gratitude for the abundance many of us are fortunate to have and giving to those who are in need, feelings of deprivation do not need be to part of anyone’s holiday.
Ways to share:
• Food banks can accept non-perishable foods such as canned meats, fish, peanut butter, canned vegetables, fruits, beans, dry staples such as rice, beans, lentils, flour, oatmeal, pasta, and cereal.
• Soup kitchens often request unopened bakery goods, condiments, bulk produce, seasonal items, paper goods and plastic utensils.
• Organize a food drive in your office, school, or church.
• When holiday entertaining, ask guests to bring food donations that you can drop off to a local charitable organization.
• Arrange for large amounts of leftover holiday foods to be dropped off at the local soup kitchen.
• Agree with family or friends to buy less extravagant gifts and donate thea difference to a meaningful cause.